2019 has been a big year for EENC. We've launched lot's of new resources and events - but this was also the first year we've awarded mini-grants to support our community! These grants were $250 or less, and applicants could propose any project they wanted to promote excellence in environmental education. Here's how this year's recipients put their funding to work:
Beth Cranford, "Durham Community Preschool Tools for Outdoor Learning"
"The goal of this project was to provide developmentally appropriate scientific tools for the children of Durham Community Preschool to use in their outdoor area. Early on in the process, I got feedback from the teachers about types of equipment and the ideal number of tools. With the grant, I was able to purchase class sets of both magnifying glasses and binoculars.
As part of the beginning of the year orientation, I trained all of the school’s teachers on the equipment and storage. We also talked about how to use the tools with different ages."
Diane Mason, "Monarchs and Milkweed"
"My project," Monarchs and Milkweed", is designed to teach students about many of the amazing characteristics and behavior of Monarchs. They learn about the physical identification of the Monarch Butterfly in all of its stages, its Life Cycle and amazing Metamorphosis, their need for Milkweed, their incredible migration, their importance as pollinators, the reasons for their decline and what they can do to help. ...
For almost all of my classes, one of the Milkweed plants had either a caterpillar and/or a chrysalis, or both, on them. So the students were able to see the life cycle through to completion with the Monarch emerging! That was really a WOW factor and brought the whole lesson together. "
Jamie Dunleavy, "Outdoor Classroom"
"The creation of this outdoor classroom is a seed project to give teachers a space to teach lessons in nature in hopes that we all reap the rewards of being outdoors and are inspired to connect more frequently with our beautiful woodland space.
Every installed feature will encourage curiosity and connectivity. The benches were created with felled trees so that students could see the wonders of the tree rings and the bark alive with living creatures—all right around them. The billboard will direct visitors to specific sights and sounds to notice throughout the seasons. The shrubs will encourage pollinators to visit near the classroom. In addition, the NC National Wildlife Federation has donated pollinator seed mix. The rain gauges and thermostats will help students apply their mathematics skills to measure, observe, and predict the effects in our woodland area."
Julie Hall, "Citizen Science Adventure Backpacks"
"People who have checked out backpacks have learned all about a citizenscience project they like and have spread the word about it to others and hopefully they are doing it at a location besides just Prairie Ridge. Backpacks already created are for eBird, iNaturalist, eButterfly, Pond Watch, Project Squirrel, Stream Selfie. We hope to expand offerings over time – this project has given us the idea that we could create backpacks for an entire school class to be able to pick up and go do a Citizen Science project on site!"
Katie Lockhart, "Storybook Trail"
"The new storybook trail at White Deer Park is a simple way for families to spend time together outside, while reading a book about the natural world. The first book on display is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This classic board book is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The story is about a caterpillar's transition into a butterfly and features beautiful illustrations.
The project is on 10 panels, which were assembled and installed by a remarkable group of Girl Scouts. The panels are designed to be interchangeable, so a new story can be featured every 3-4 months. This free, accessible project promotes health and literacy in a fun and approachable way."
Leanna Staton, "Growing Greens for Good"
“Growing Greens for Good” project was a success thanks to the EENC MiniGrant and it helped expand Clay Soil & Water Conservation District’s program capabilities. It enhanced partnerships with our schools, our formal educators, our students, and it helped a family suffering from food insecurity.
The project was educational and is sustainable as each year new Hayesville High School students learn about germination, soil health and plant life cycles. The project also, taught students about construction, vegetable production, and how to help families that can’t provide food for their family. It involved working together and brought attention to conservation education which will hopefully instill conservation values in students, families and their communities. "
Mir Youngquist-Thurow, ""Water Quality Abiotic Testing"
"Participating teachers have reported that their students have benefited by improving their knowledge comprehension in the use of abiotic testing, along with the biotic index of macroinvertebrates to determine water quality. Additionally, the students took turbidity measurements and temperature readings, neither of which required Hach Test kits. Through conducting the tests, students better understood the implications of each parameter. Coming to the Agape Center for Environmental Education for hands-on experiential learning has reinforced concepts taught in the classroom by "making it real."
Shalyn Yost, "Outdoor Explorers"
"This project was started as a once a week, members choice program at the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson Co. I wanted to give children the opportunity to go outside, explore and use their imagination while making connections to the outside world. We started out with no equipment, just some field guides, knowledge of our surroundings (what we had) and a pretty good outdoor space. It was a great start, but it was hard to get them to connect when they have already “seen everything.” Teaching a child in today's world, with instant gratification at their finger tips is especially challenging in the world of environmental education.
Sometimes waiting is to see something “cool” takes patients and persistence which does not always ensue. With the grant we received I was able to put that “wow” factor back on their radar. The binoculars were a great tool to point out different kinds of birds, which led to trying to call and bring them closer. The insect containers really amazed the children when they were able to see insects up close. This led to the discovery of garden insects and questions as to how and why there is pollination. But the most inspiring experience was when some of the children took the knowledge they obtained, turned it into trust and put their feet in the dirt for the first time! The looks on their faces will forever be one of my fondest memories."
Shannon Unger, "Racial Equity Training offered by the Racial Equity Institute"
" I offer year-round programming, workshop, classes and events to tens of thousands of community members. I believe that the experience I had at the training has drastically changed my pre-conceived notions in regards to race relations and how to best interact and positively impact those of Color and from different backgrounds other than my own. It challenged me to check myself and really look to see what biases, whether conscious or not, were impacting my outreach efforts and in all areas of my life. I am hopeful that I have and will continue to be more thoughtful in my interactions with our diverse community here at Cabarrus County. I will work to make my programs more inclusive and welcoming to people of any race or background."
Are you a member of EENC who does not work for a non-profit? Do you have big ideas for new programming and resources to improve your programming? Do you keep seeing grants that would fit your project, but you need non-profit status to apply? If you said yes to all of the above, we might be able to help.
As a service to our membership and partners, EENC can serve as a fiscal sponsor for environmental education projects. The goals outlined in the projects must align with the mission and goals of EENC. The member or organization must send a written request including the project details to the Board for approval prior to submitting the grant.
To learn more about this process, please email Lauren Pyle.
Want to see what this looks like in action? Check out current EENC member Will Freund's Climate, Kayak, and Conversation project.
EENC Members - you asked for it and we've made it happen. Announcing our new member directory. Want to connect with another member you met at event or find other people in your area? Log into your account and visit https://eenc.wildapricot.org/memberdirectory to find people by name and section.
Want to change what people can see about you? Once you're logged in to the website, click your name in the top right corner, then click the "Privacy" to add or remove categories. You can add photos and update your information under the "Profile" tab.
Want to reach out to a bunch of folks? Join EENC's private Facebook group to keep conversations flowing!
EENC believes in #EEforAll. We envision a future where all North Carolina children grow up feeling connected to nature, understand natural systems, develop the skills needed to address environmental challenges, and have attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible action. We want all learners participating in environmental education programs in North Carolina feel welcome and engaged. And we want North Carolina’s population of professional environmental educators reflects our state’s residents. Addressing equity and inclusion in environmental education is a critical part of this effort.
Earlier this month, EENC hosted an "Equity and the Environment" workshop in Asheville at the YMI Cultural Center. Over 75 people representing a wide range of fields and professional roles came together. Facilitator Marisol Jiménez opened the day with a plenary session, inspiring attendees to reflect on their personal journeys, providing some common language to frame conversations through the day, and shared the often untold history of the intersection between race and the environment in our region. During the afternoon, attendees could choose to further their individual understanding of systemic racism with Marisol Jiménez , explore organizational strategies and implications with Marsha Davis, or learn from local EE practitioners who are incorporating equity throughout their work. 94% of workshop respondents reported they feel more prepared to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplace after this workshop AND 94% of respondents feel at least somewhat more prepared to engage diverse learners and community members after this workshop.
Beyond supporting our professional community, EENC is looking inward. Over Veteran's Day weekend, EENC board and staff members participated in a three-day equity and engagement strategy session with the Center for Diversity & the Environment. During this time, we reflected on our organization's current status, envisioned our future, and crafted a plan to help us get there.
Both of these trainings were possible thanks to support from NAAEE and ee360.
We recognized this conversation is a journey, not an end-point. EENC plans to continue to keep our community talking about this topic. We look forward to having you in the conversation.
Stay tuned! Our next event on this topic will be a workshop on culturally responsive environmental education in Greensboro in January. We'll post the final details for this event on our events page soon!
Each year the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) publicly recognizes environmental educators, members, organizations, and partners for their valuable contributions to environmental literacy, the field of environmental education, the EENC as an organization, and the environmental well-being of North Carolina.
On September 20, 2019, EENC celebrated seven individuals and organizations for their amazing work. From EENC Membership Chair, Trent Stanforth: “The decisions were very difficult, and we are honored to be able to identify and shine a light on the incredible work done in our field.”
Environmental Educator of The Year
The 2019 Environmental Educator of The Year was awarded to Meredith Morgan. Ms. Morgan has been overseeing public programming at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville. She oversees the Museum’s very popular Storytime and Nature PlayDays, as well as the Museum’s large events, including Movies on Madison and Bugfest South. She has been valuable to the Museum in expanding programming beyond the confines of the former bank building where the Museum is housed by developing a relationship with a private landowner who shares their space for teaching outdoor programs. She truly understands the value of getting people into nature to learn more and become better environmental stewards.
Exceptional Environmental Education Program
North Carolina Envirothon won the 2019 Exceptional Environmental Education Program Award. The North Carolina Envirothon is one of the oldest environmental education programs in North Carolina, starting way back in 1991. For the past 28 years, this extracurricular program culminates a statewide contest in the subjects of aquatics, soils, forestry, wildlife, and current environmental resources for 5th-12th grade students. This program increases interest in the environment within older students by exposing them to adults working in a variety of “green” fields, from Soil & Water Conservation District employees to Forest Service Rangers. This program took the lead internationally this year by hosting the 2019 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon Competition in Raleigh, which welcomed teams from across the United States, Canada, and China.
This year’s Outstanding Partner Award was given to Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. Part of the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the Office served a vital role this past year on a variety of EENC accomplishments. They helped co-author a document with EENC on how funding from Every Student Succeeds Act can be used to fund environmental education. Their 2018 annual non-formal educators meeting joined EENC’s half-day diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop to provide two full days of professional development for educators. Finally, they were instrumental in the facilitation of EENC’s third Environmental Education Summit, which brought together leaders from statewide organizations in education and the environment to get to know one another better and identify strategies to work together toward common goals.
The 2019 Outstanding Practitioner Award recognized Mandy Smith-Thompson. Ms. Smith-Thompson is a certified environmental educator, a Central Carolinas Master Naturalist and Habitat Steward, and a newly designated Master Gardener who has served the City of Concord for the past 12 years. She has created programs that have led to cleaner streams, addressed the need for native plants in Concord, assembled Cabarrus area environmental educators, installed a pollinator meadow, and more. She partners and collaborates with outside organizations, including Concord Wildlife Alliance, Master Gardeners, and NC Wildlife Federation. She’s known for putting projects into motion, some that help solve some of the environmental issues she teaches about. She reminds humans of that which they used to know - how the natural world works and where we fit into it.
EENC’s 2019 Outstanding Service Award was given to Brad Daniel. Dr. Daniel has grown EENC exponentially since he started serving on the board seven years ago. During his term, he helped designed the research symposium that is now integral at our yearly conference, guided statewide environmental education summits, and pushed the growth of EENC’s relationships with other organizations, to name a few. More recently, he was integral in this year’s EENC joint mini-conference in conjunction the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers’ annual meeting. This was the first time these two organizations have partnered on an event since the 1990’s. He has been providing outstanding service to EE for decades, showing no signs of slowing down.
EENC celebrated Tanya Poole with a Special Recognition for a Lifetime of Environmental Education Award. Tanya Poole serves as the outreach education specialist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Her 20+ year career also includes teaching as an adjunct environmental education professor, two years of service on the EENC board of directors and leading a multitude of professional development workshops ranging from Project WILD: Bears to Methods of Teaching Environmental Education. She keeps her eye on the prize and works tirelessly for the cause of environmental education in North Carolina. She’s a fantastic professional, well-loved, regarded and respected. From award winner Tanya Poole: “There are a thousand people in our community who are very deserving of this award, and it is a privilege to receive it.”
The votes are in! EENC is pleased to share that our membership approved the addition of the conference co-chair positions for 2020. Your 2020 Board of Directors will be:
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about what you need as an environmental education professional in EENC's recent survey. We received a total of 148 responses from current members, previous members, and people outside our current network. We heard from folks across the state, at all levels of professional experience, and in many different settings. Thanks to the team at NC State University for designing this survey and analyzing all the data.
What did we learn, you might ask? First, that you all are pretty knowledgeable about what EENC can can offer you! We were pleasantly surprised to see how many people were familiar with our professional development events, conference, and push to professionalize the field of EE.
It was also exciting to see how many of you are here because you care about this work. The community benefits you reported were the pieces you knew the most about and were most important to you.
We also heard clear calls for better support of K-12 classroom educators and more communication about our work to address diversity, equity and inclusion within the field of EE.
EENC is planning to refocus our programs and membership offerings to better serve you. Thanks for lending your voice to help guide our efforts!
So, what does EENC do beyond the conference? What do you hope people gain by being a part of EENC? What impacts do you hope to make in our state? All questions commonly asked by EENC's funders, members, and partners.
We've been trying to better answer these types of questions about what we do and why we do it more clearly over the past year. EENC offers a huge variety of programs and services to North Carolina's EE community. Being a small nonprofit with limited capacity, we are very strategic about the projects we take on - because we want to help change the world. As part of this effort, we recently developed this logic model to describe our efforts: 2019 EENC Overall Logic Model (PDF).
You can find many of these projects described here on our website (tip: use the search bar if you're looking for something specific!), and we're always looking to add new strategies to help us reach these goals. If you have suggestions or any additional questions, please let us know!
Did you know the Every Student Succeeds Act specifically calls out environmental education as an eligible activity for federal education dollars? In partnership with the Office of Environmental Education, EENC co-authored a document intended for school administrators and leaders explaining this link. It was posted earlier this spring by the NC Department of Public Instruction on their website here.
We know many local organizations, centers, and agencies support this document. We want to recognize you. If you have questions about this or if your workplace would like to be added to EENC's list of supporters, please email Lauren Pyle.
We had such a great time at the Schiele Museum for EENC's 2019 Annual Conference. Thank you to our fabulous presenters and speakers who shared their knowledge and experience. Thank you to all the attendees, who asked inspiring questions and brought so much passion.
By the numbers:
We know many people's favorite part of the conference is getting to connect and talk with other educators. Want to keep the conversation flowing until the next event? Join EENC's Facebook group to ask questions, bounce ideas around, and participate in our monthly digital round-tables.
Save the date for next year's major events:
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